Kiski Area softball holds off Armstrong to clinch playoff spot

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018 | 11:18 PM


The Kiski Area softball team is heading back to the playoffs.

The Cavaliers topped Armstrong, 4-3, in their Section 1-5A finale Tuesday and clinched their place in the tournament for the second year in a row.

“I am excited and thankful for these girls,” Kiski head coach Maggie Jones said. “They've really battled all season.”

Kiski Area heads into the postseason having won seven of its past eight games. It concluded the section schedule 5-1 after a 3-5 start.

“At that point, it was almost like every game was a playoff game, and we couldn't afford too many more losses,” Jones said. “For them to not let that pressure get to them and for them to persevere, it's pretty special. We've told them all season to believe in each other.”

The Cavaliers headed into Tuesday's contest in a four-way tie with Gateway, Plum and Greensburg Salem for the final two playoff spots in the section. The Golden Lions and Mustangs lost Monday to section leaders Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional, respectively, and finished section play at 7-7.Both were eliminated from playoff contention when Gateway topped Woodland Hills on Monday to snag the final WPIAL spot from the section.

P-T and Franklin Regional will share the section title with 12-2 records. Kiski beat Penn-Trafford, 4-0, last week and suffered a 1-0 setback to Franklin Regional two days earlier.

Armstrong finished section play 2-12. Kiski Area won the first meeting 10-0, but Jones knew it would be different this time around.

“We know Armstrong really wanted this game today,” she said. “I know the first time we played them, we didn't see the best Armstrong team. They made a couple of errors, and we knew they were a better team. I didn't expect (Tuesday) to be an easy win at all. They really came out and competed, and our girls answered the challenge.”

Kiski extended its lead to 4-2 in the top of the seventh on a two-out, run-scoring double from cleanup hitter Alexa Nagy. Kelsey Sofaly walked to lead off the inning, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Sarah Clever and advanced to third on a groundout by Courtney Moyer before scoring on the Nagy hit.

That run turned out to be crucial for the Cavaliers as Armstrong mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the seventh.

A single and a walk put the pressure on Kiski pitcher Megan Andree and her defense.

A fielding error plated a run to cut the Cavaliers' advantage to 4-3 and put the tying run at second base.

But Andree got River Hawks cleanup hitter Madison Titus to hit into a 6-5 fielder's choice to end the game.

“For our girls to come out and compete and come away with the victory, they didn't buckle under the pressure,” Jones said. “These close games are great learning opportunities as we head into the playoffs. We know we can compete with these top teams.”

Nagy finished 2 for 4 as part of Kiski's eight-hit attack. She added an RBI single in the fifth, and the Cavaliers plated two in the inning to break a 1-1 tie.

“We knew (Armstrong) was going to come out strong,” Nagy said. “We knew it wasn't going to be a 10-run game like last time. We were prepared for the way they came out and played.”

Sofaly, who had the other RBI in the fifth with a single, finished 2 for 3. She doubled with one out in the third and scored on a single from Courtney Moyer.

Kassandra Cessna also had two hits and scored a run.

Andree went the distance for the Cavaliers. She surrendered four hits and walked three while striking out four. Only one of Armstrong's three runs was earned.

“Megan needed a game like that where she was challenged,” Jones said. “Not that she hasn't been tested before, but to not get some calls we thought she should've gotten. We thought we had a girl struck out in the bottom of the seventh that would've ended the game before they scored. But she responded well and made a number of clutch pitches.”

Titus finished 2 for 4 with a double and two runs to lead Armstrong. Emma Kilgore took the pitching loss for the River Hawks. She struck out two and walked three.

“We had runners on base it seemed like every inning, but we just didn't get enough timely hits to help us get the win,” Armstrong assistant coach Keith Shaffer said.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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